A good litigator, whether a trial attorney or an appellate attorney, can recognize the weaknesses in his case and be prepared to deal with them. One of the mistakes that some lawyers make is they become so enamored with their case that they believe they cannot lose, and find out the hard way that they were wrong. One of the skills taught in law school is the ability to recognize legal issues in a fact pattern and be able to present arguments on both sides as to how a court should rule.
A significant number of discussions in the Talmud involve disputes as to what should be the correct law. Both sides state their positions and bring proofs about why their position is correct.
Unfortunately, one of the disturbing trends in this country is the inability to present both sides. This is a problem whether you are pro-Trump or anti-Trump, a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal, conservative, or moderate.
The New York Times published an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton on June 3, entitled, “Send in the Troops. The nation must restore order, the troops are ready.” Senator Cotton’s position was that if local officials were unable to quell the violence from the protests resulting the death of George Floyd, then the president should send in the troops to restore order. There is no question that this position was not popular with the majority of The New York Times readers and its staff. However, Cotton is not a crackpot, and many Americans agreed with his position.
Here was an example where a paper gave an opposing view on an issue, which was a good thing. The reaction was that those on the Left were upset because they felt that the paper gave a forum for Cotton’s idea which they felt was abhorrent. The resulting fallout was that the editorial page editor at The New York Times was forced to resign.
This one-sided presentation is not limited to The New York Times or other print media. If you look at FOX, CNN, or MSNBC’s websites, it is rare to find any news or opinion that is contrary to the narrative that they want to spew. They are good at showing the weaknesses of the other side’s position but ignore their own problematic positions.
At 11:00 p.m., there are three political shows: Don Lemon on CNN, Brian Williams on MSNBC, and Sheila Bream on FOX. I try to watch one or more of them Monday-Thursday night.
Lemon is the most liberal; he condoned the violence at the protests. Lemon and Williams have one thing in common: Their guests on their program mirror their political beliefs. It does not matter whether it is a panel of four guests or just one. Also, they never ask tough questions of those who they agree with. Therefore, those who watch both shows are hearing a one-sided view on issues day after day. Williams likes to bash Republicans for their failure for sticking up to the president when he is wrong. He asks, where is the profile in courage? My question for Williams is: Where is your profile in courage? You need to speak up against this one-sided view being presented every day on your show and do what you can to change it.
Not surprisingly, Shannon Bream, as being part of FOX, is the most conservative and supporting of President Trump. Many times, her show also falls into the trap of presenting a one-sided view. Ms. Bream usually does not ask hard questions to those whose opinion would be popular with most of her viewers. But to her credit, most nights, at least one segment will have representatives on both sides of an issue. So at least the viewers on FOX will hear contrary positions on important issues.
All three shows and the other political shows should learn from Chris Wallace, who has been the gold standard in navigating this problem. He has each side come in and present their position. Wallace will pose tough questions to both sides. He reminds me of when I argue an appeal. I will get up to argue and be peppered with questions by the Court to address the problems with my position. Then the opposing attorney will get up to argue and the Court goes after that attorney, questioning them about the weaknesses in their position.
The only way we will be able to have an intelligent discussion on critical issues that impact our country is to be willing to hear and listen to arguments from both sides. If we remain in our cocoons, only listening to those who we agree with, then nothing will be accomplished.